A foosball table doesn't look like more than a miniature soccer field, with its two teams of 11 plastic or wood men attached to eight metal rods. But when there are four avid players gathered round, pushing, pulling and jamming the ball past the opposite team, the table might as well be of a world soccer championship.
For the people who play foosball regularly, the game is not something to be taken lightly. Some devotees frequent the table after every meal, playing for about an hour at a time. for residents of most Houses, these players are a familiar sight at all times of the day and night.
At Quincy House, where the sport has been elevated above the status of mere recreation, the players' minds turn from food to foos not only after lunch and dinner, but also during the nightly trip to the Q-House grill.
"People say repeatedly, 'This is the last game, I've got to go," says Eric Jacobsen '86. He adds that addicts will miss classes or stay up until 4 a.m., not realizing how much time has elapsed.
Although he just plays it to be social," Dennis Ineman '87 admits that there are times when he does "blow of part of a class" to get in just one more game.
Sometimes this seemingly innocent attitude can backfire. One foos fanatic talks about the first time: "I guess it was about a year ago--it was the Friday before spring break. Three friends and I were bored and started playing at 1:30. We played until breakfast." The expert adds, "At first I didn't think anything of it. It was a way to waste a day."
The addiction can sneak up on you, foosball players agree. "You waste so much time at the table, you wish you could get credit for it." says Brian C. Harrington '87 Flora Chang '86 says that she slacked off on her foos time when her "academics and wrist started hurting."
Foos enthusiast cite many reasons why they return again and again to the table All agree, though that one of the best things about foosball is that-unlike its main competitor video games-it's free.
Other say that they use foosball as an escape from daily tension. "It's just the feel of the power you get when you knoch the ball past your opponent," explains Lowell House fooser David M. Lin '87, "It's a vicarious experience in which I find myself cathartically relieved."
Relief can be hard to find, though, at a game in which such a cut throat attitude reigns supreme. And, since basically the only skills you need to play foosball are good hand-eye coordination and being able to see over the table, "the good guys and bad guys can play on an equal level," says Ineman. Harrington adds, "Heck--our girlfriends are beginning to play."
Most female initiates don't become hooked, though. Chang--one of few foosettes--says that this may be due to the competitive nature of the game. "Girls just don't take it as seriously as guys do and I know some guys also take it pretty seriously," she adds.
Part of taking the game seriously is watching how your opponents pay and second-guessing their shots, says Benjamin J. Quintana '85, "It you don't know how the person plays foosball, then you just have to watch him." some players even go to the lengths of scouting their opponents before they will play them, says Ineman.
Others will go to the extreme of playing alone, he says, adding, "playing with yourself, so to speak, is pretty weird." Another tactic is talking about the theory of the game while away from the table, says Jacobsen. "There's not really a heck of a lot to say about foosball which makes talking about it so surprising," he adds.
Whether or not they talk about it, foos maniacs agree that a lot of the game is mental. "There's a lot of pysch in it," says Harrington Lin agrees. "Foosball enthusiasts tend to believe that they are the best players anywhere. Whenever you play foosball you should make certain to be as arrogant as possible when you get a goal."
For some, satisfaction comes from just knowing that they can beat their opponents regularly; others enter tournaments to assert their dominance. In Quincy House, where foosball can become a way of life, there is at least one annual foosball tournament.
Michael Twomey '85, "Foosczar" for the past two years, oversees these tournaments as well as the foosball table, according to Quintana. Tournament winners are rewarded with a plaque in their name.
But, Quincy House may soon be expanding its foosball fad into an intramural sport, says Eriberto P. Lozado '86. This is not surprising for a House which, according to Harrington, is the only House at Harvard to have its own foosball tutor.
Harrington takes this all in stride, calling foosball an "athletic event." He says that since he has started playing foosball, his wrists have built up and he has developed backaches. "When you're playing fast and furious action for an hour, you can be sweating You come upstairs and your shirt's drenched."
The foosball tradition is one that has existed at Quincy for quite a long time, says Quintana. At the Quincy House 25th Reunion, legendary alums dropped by to see the foosball table of their college days. Says Quintana, "It's just like riding a bike. They were still pretty good, but you could tell they weren't their former selves."
It's not surprising that a former master can lose his touch. As Jacobsen says, "the only place you can find foosball tables are college campuses and sleazy bars."